Open Tour 3 preview: the midlands version of B Tour

Jordan Brown finishes off his Tour previews with B Tour North in Birmingham.

While Tour 2 saw the northern B Tour teams duke it out alone in Salford, this time they’re lumped in with A Tour, C Tour and Women’s Tour in Birmingham. Despite there only being 12 teams in the division again, this time they’ll get the chance to cross over with A and C.

The seedings this time are a tad odd. Birmingham are seeded first despite having a tough season and finishing below BAF who ran out as winners of B Tour in Cardiff. They’re also ahead of Brighton City who will no doubt feel a little stung at missing out on A Tour after finishing 16th two weeks ago.

Further down the seedings, YOpen will be annoyed to be sat behind Fluid who they dispatched in the last game of the weekend.

So while the seedings are a tad messy, it won’t matter too much as the pools are bracketed appropriately, but it could mean some teams will have a bit more fire in their bellies if there’s a point to prove.

Looking at pool E, we have Birmingham 1 joined by JR and Fluid. Birmingham’s campaign has been one of the weakest in years, likely due in no small part to the departure of talismanic handler Marius Hutcheson. Still, Brum are always a force to be reckoned with and as long as they have the rest of their regulars, they should hold onto the top spot once the groups have played out. JR performed admirably having sent a Mixed squad to the last two events, managing to stay in B Tour at Tour 1 and win C Tour in the Welsh capital. Fluid did remarkably well in Salford, coming away with a top eight finish. The Bangor-based team aren’t going to roll over for either Birmingham or JR. This whole pool depends on the strength of JR – they’re Mixed again, so I’d expect Fluid could hop above them.

Pool F features a potentially smarting Brighton. They’ll no doubt be looking to vent some frustration having been bumped by the national squads’ inclusion, meaning that Vision and YOpen will have to batten down the hatches. Vision performed well at Tour 2, finishing fifth overall having come second in their pool. With this season being a bit of a homecoming for the Liverpool squad, they’re looking strong and backing each other up a lot. It may be enough to topple Brighton but they’ve also got YOpen to content with. In Salford YOpen came out of nowhere to beat Gravity and Vision and top the group, only to get knocked back on the Sunday. They’ll maybe begrudge Vision their seeding and, provided they’ve not lost their GB Junior contingent, they could very well do the job again.

Current B Tour (South) champs BAF top pool G which also includes longtime (friendly) rivals Gravity and EMO 2. BAF will undoubtedly be as strong as ever and utilise their blend of young cutters and experienced handlers to do damage. Gravity are well tuned to BAF’s offence and should be able to produce a tight game provided numbers don’t become a factor. EMO 2 sit at the bottom of the group and aren’t to be underestimated. They finished mid-B Tour a fortnight ago and are definitely up to the fight against both BAF and Gravity. With this being a fairly local tournament to them, I’d expect a fairly big squad that will punish fatigue from either of their competitors.

LLLeeds 1 are sitting pretty at the top of group H despite The Brown beating them 12-10 in the last game in Salford. While they’ve been looking strong, LLLeeds can expect a barrage from The Brown who were relentless in Salford when they took third place. Head to Pitch 16 at 12:30 on Saturday and you’ll no doubt see a an absolute humdinger of a match. Red complete this pool. Despite losing all three games two Sundays ago, they only lost narrowly and will come storming out of the blocks this weekend. Still, I’d be very surprised if they beat either Leeds or Newcastle.

Saturday’s quarters are anybody’s guess at this stage, but I think it’ll go to seed in that the top eight will end up in those spots. I can see the potential for upsets if seeds are held after the group stages, but I wouldn’t count on even that being the case. Similarly, for Sunday morning, the only potential for crossing into A Tour is likely to Brighton City if they top their group and beat SMOG or whoever else trails in group A. The only other possibility could be BAF catching a GB U24 team off-guard.

Looking ahead to the semis, I think the seeded top eight are the ones that’ll go through and from there, I’d back BAF, LLLeeds, Brighton and Birmingham.